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Otunga, AJ Lee and Alicia participate in Survivor Series Day of Service
On Saturday, WWE Superstar David Otunga joined forces with Divas AJ Lee, Alicia Fox and 150 local volunteers at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. As part of WWE’s Survivor Series Day of Service, Otunga and the Divas volunteered at Gleaners’ base of operations in Indianapolis to assist filling BackSacks with nutritionally-based food for children at risk of hunger.
Otunga, AJ and Alicia all arrived at 10 a.m. sharp to attend orientation and to learn a bit more about Gleaners and their goals. Gleaners has led the fight against hunger in Indiana across the past three decades, distributing over 230 million meals to those in need. That fight has become tougher each year as needs have grown, but Gleaners has grown, too. Despite the challenges, Gleaners and its staff of dedicated employees and roster of volunteers work tirelessly to feed the hungry.
Today, Gleaners distributes much-needed food to 410 charities spread across 21 counties in Indiana, providing meals for nearly 300,000 Hoosiers that depend on their aid. As cited during orientation Saturday, one in eight Indiana residents is hungry and Gleaners has made it their purpose to do everything possible to feed them all.
Wrapping up the orientation session, Gleaners Volunteer Coordinator Sa’ane Hopoate told the Superstar and Divas, “Your help is so important to what we do. We’re happy we have community supporters like yourselves.”
Next up, Hopoate led a tour of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis Food Distribution Center, the new, massive warehouse that stores all the items donated to Gleaners. Then, Otunga and the Divas headed to the assembly lines to do their part by volunteering for The BackSacks Weekend Food for Kids Program, an initiative that has grown exponentially since its inception.
When the initiative began, volunteers assembled an average of 500 BackSacks per week. Today, they pack 8,500 on a weekly basis, providing a crucial service to the community. As one staff member commented, “If the kids are not healthy, our future is not healthy.” Serving 70,000 children a year, Gleaners is doing everything it can to ensure the future of Indiana’s youth.
Otunga, AJ and Alicia settled in for their day of service, each one heading to a different assembly line to get to work on “packing and stacking” the BackSacks. The all-star trio saw firsthand what Gleaners, its staff and volunteers have been doing for the past three decades: Not only do they provide food to those who need it, but they also provide hope.
Across the warehouse, AJ busily unpacked cartons of apple juice to ready them for the assembly line. For AJ, there was a very personal connection to Gleaners and its volunteers. “Not very long ago, these places were helping me, and it’s kind of amazing to be back and to give back in a different way,” the former Raw General Manager said in a poignant moment. “I’ve come full circle.”
Otunga, whose assembly line put together more BackSacks than any other group — 2,222, to be exact — quickly and efficiently stuffed peanut butter and jelly packages into bags. The outspoken Superstar sometimes even worked one-handed thanks to the ever-present coffee mug in his left hand. The Harvard-educated grappler was more than happy to lend that hand, though. “This is a great way to kick off Survivor Series right here in Indianapolis,” he said. “There’s no better thing to be doing than giving back at the food bank.”
When the volunteering shift came to an end, BackSacks were tallied up. The final count for the day? A whopping 5,400 packages that will go to those who need it most, clear evidence of a day well spent. Before heading out, though, Otunga, AJ and Alicia took the time to hang out and chat with the other volunteers, and also posed for group photos to commemorate the day.
“It was amazing,” Hopoate said. “David, Alicia and AJ worked hard. They worked alongside our volunteer groups that were already scheduled here. We had roughly 150 volunteers, so it was a very exciting and amazing day of service.”
And days like today are especially important during this time of year, as the holidays approach. If you’re interested in helping out, please visit www.gleaners.org for a volunteer registration form, and be sure to check out Gleaners on Facebook and follow them @GleanersFBIndy on Twitter.